The Implosion of First Baptist Dallas

The video above shows the implosion earlier today of four downtown buildings that belong to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. The buildings were demolished to make way for its new worship center, education facilities, parking garage, glass concourse, and sky bridge. The three men who detonated the explosives are Pastor Robert Jeffress, Mayor Tom Leppert, and Planning & Development Committee Chairman Mark Lovvorn.

[Historical note: The high-rise in the background of the church’s steeple in the final scene is Lincoln Plaza, where Dick Cheney worked for Haliburton before becoming vice-president of the United States.]

What came down this morning was massive. What will go up in its place looks to be even bigger. In fact, the plans for the new building are pretty unbelievable. At 130 million dollars, it’s very clear why The Dallas Morning News called it “the largest church building program in modern history.” Below is a 3-D animated preview of the new buildings.

Here’s another view of the demolition (HT: Mark Overstreet).

And another…



  • J.A. Swanson

    This just makes me shake my head in disbelief….. $130 Million spent on a new church building. I think of the many ways that money could be spent on meeting not only spiritual needs, but physical needs of people in Dallas and around the world.

    There was a time in my life where I would have supported a building campaign such as this, thinking it was a worthwhile endeavor. However, in the last 10 years, my ministry philosophy and perspective and has completely changed.

    Now, I believe it is more about getting people out of the church, in order to BE the Church, instead of building an enormous facility to meet all people’s needs, hold all functions, etc. It’s fine to have a nice facility. I, personally, just think this is over-the-top.

    To each his own…..

  • Charlton Connett

    Reading about this causes me to have some serious questions as well. In part what I wonder whether this is the best time for a project like this. I mean, $38000 for each seat in the sanctuary seems a little much to me. In the midst of a severe economic downturn, when most churches are having to cut their budgets and many small churches are having problems even paying the bills, are there better things that the church could have chosen to do with $115 million dollars? (The original project called for $130 million, but they raised $115 million in pledges, so they decided to proceed only with construction that could be covered with the lesser amount.)

    At the same time I agree that there is nothing wrong with building beautiful places for the worship of God, so long as the building is done in a God honoring and biblical way. In FBD’s defense, they have decided to proceed with this project debt free, and they have cut back what they were intending to do based on what they actually raised enough to do. And the money was raised strictly for this purpose, as a secondary financial campaign in addition to FBD’s normal budget. I pray that they actually get the money that has been promised, and do not go into debt to finish the construction of this campus.

    I’m with J.A. here though, in that when I hear that price tag immediately my mind starts wondering what that amount of money could have done for missions in the Dallas area, in Texas, in the U.S., and internationally. I pray that the leadership of FBD has truly sought God’s will here, and that he will bless them with what they have chosen.

  • Jeremy

    Questions about the wisdom of such a project are fair.

    I am glad they are remaining downtown. I do not judge SBC churches who move from downtowns to suburbs, but I do like churches staying downtown.

  • Barton Ramsey

    I wonder how many _________ could be ________ for $130 million that would honor God and advance the gospel more than this building. Houses built, people fed, naked clothed, pastors supported, churches planted, missionaries funded… To name a few)

  • Joe Blankenship

    What are your thoughts Denny in relationship to the use of funds? It seems like a prominent symbol, because of its size and expense, of the kind of money the church is spending all over the place internally and disproportionally to the items mentioned in the Scripture that the church should spend its resources for. Is it just a cultural issue and morally neutral or does FBC Dallas join the chorus of the larger professing church that will stand at the judgment to give an account for spending so much on our ourselves while our brothers and sisters do without? I’d love your wisdom from the “in house” SBC perspective since I trust you to be deeply in love with the Lord and His Word.

  • Mark Gibson

    This is pretty pathetic criticism of FBD. Until you have pledged 10% of your total assets and given it for purposes previously posted, don’t talk.

  • Amanda

    I would agree with the majority of the comments above. This is extremely sad. Why do they think they must have a new, fancy building to reach more people? There is a possibility that the people they are saying they wish to reach, are the ones who will never set foot inside some fancy church. Use the money to minister OUTSIDE the walls of the church. Bigger is not better.

    Do we really need more church buildings?

  • Scott

    Personally I’d rather my 10% go toward the gospel and helping people. It seems FBD would rather spend their money on glitz, glamour, and extravagance. But hey, they’re being “contextual!”

  • Tom Jefferson

    Most of these comments are expected. However, for the sake of being different, i will say that i like the changes. I pray that the Lord will be lifted up at FBD and that many people in that great city will be saved through the preaching of the Word that will come from the church. Here is a church that is committed to the downtown of a tremendous American city. They have chosen NOT to abandon the downtown and move to the lily-white, yuppie suburbs. They are a church that stands on the word of God and their pastor is not ashamed to declare the truth. They haven’t asked me for a dime. Have they asked any of you? The members of FBD made this decision, I am sure after much prayer. God, use them and this facility to Your glory and honor.

  • Scott

    So is building an extraordinary building going to do more for the “people” of downtown Dallas or more for the “aesthetics” of downtown Dallas? I’m not sure a big building will do anything to make FBD more diverse. If anything I think it will repel the downtrodden and homeless.

    Here’s the bottom line: The DFW area is saturated with mega-churches all competing to have bigger and better facilities. For the most part they all attract the same middle-upper class, white demographic. No, they haven’t asked me for a dime! But that doesn’t grant them immunity from criticism. How much more effectively could the downtown area be served if that money went toward soup kitchens, homeless shelters, relief aid, equipping missionaries for the downtown area? What about funding learning opportunities? Again, I have no problem with improving facilities. But this plan is excessive.

  • J.A. Swanson

    Mark, I can’t speak for the others, and not that it really matters in a forum such as this, but my family does give 10% or more of our assets to assist others, as well as tithing to our local church.

    My husband is a pastor; I am a mom, part-time private piano and voice teacher, and work at church unpaid in various capacities. Five years ago, we made a concerted effort to live off of less, downsize our home, step out in faith and be the hands and feet of Christ to folks in our local sphere of influence and in assistance to ministry/missions needs around the world.

    So, as I said, my perspective on ministry, and stewarding the finances, resources and gifts that I have been given has drastically changed in the last several years, especially having spent a few of those years as a church planter.

    I applaud FBD for not leaving downtown Dallas. As well, I do pray (and yes, I mean that) the ministry of this congregation will continue to be effective and impacting in their sphere of influence, as well as around the world.

    Yet, I still believe the leaders of this congregation could have creatively and strategically used $130 million in a broader fashion, along with building a new facility.

  • Brian Krieger

    I know a lot has been said about this already (see previous post some time ago by Dr. Burk) but I’m with Tom on this one. I think it’s uncharitable to castigate the project based on a price tag alone (which it sounds most are). Timing also might reflect poorly. Saying that they have chosen to pursue glitz over advancing the gospel would, to me, presume that you have sat in on the meetings for the planning and been intimately involved in the project. How are all of the facilities being used? What facilities are being built? Just because it’s more than what you might think to spend doesn’t mean it’s wrong. A very simplistic example. In many downtown areas, real estate is very expensive. So it may cost $30K for a 10K sf area (just big enough for a small church). In rural towns, 10K is $2K. I wouldn’t say abandon the inner-city church, though. I know that’s not a perfect example, but I think it illustrates the point well enough.

    To me, I would also throw a word of caution around the “wonder how many _________ could be ________ for….” With that line of thinking, does your church have AC, heat? Does it have lights? More than wooden benches provided for free? That’s $ that could be spent for ____ above, too, you know. And, again, what are the facilities being used for? Another example might be a training center decked with computers to provide training for those out of work right now (don’t know, just an example). That does more than simply give a piece of bread (but teaches them to make bread, so to speak).

    I don’t have any affiliation with FBD, mind you, so criticisms could very well be spot on and from folks who are “in the know”, so to speak. Just some thoughts as I read this. And, for the sake of brevity, far more discussion wasn’t included, natch. Just thoughts to ponder, I hope.

  • Kelly

    It is nice to see a church stay downtown, which a lot of churches abandon when it gets difficult to stay there. And, they raised the money, and I am sure they prayed and planned and studied etc. before they built, but, $ 38,000 per seat (and parking, and the organ, and the classrooms, and the fire protection…I know it is not all ‘per seat’) seems, well. Not right.

    My secular friends in the DFW area tell me that they are not impressed however. I should add that it would be hard for a Southern Baptist congregation to do anything that would not offend them, but I think most if not all of the posters here so far have been Christian. Christians can see the upside and downsides of such big spending (though even here, most posters seem to think it was over the top for what they are getting).

    The the unchurched I have spoken with, this looks like a big vanity project, and a symbol of what is wrong with Christianity. I am not saying they are correct, but, perception is reality to those doing the perceiving.

    And thats a LOT of money that could have been used for a lot of good, and still build a very nice church downtown for a fraction of the cost.

    Hard to mock the Catholics and their gold and silver coated..well, everything, when you spend that much on impressive architecture!

  • Derek

    Every spending decision a church or Christian makes needs to be evaluated on the basis of how it will contribute to the making of disciples. If FBD is convinced and correct that this is the best use of their funds, God will provide the funds and whatever else is needed on top of that. And if they have God’s blessing, then God bless and increase their work. While I realize that the downtown area of Dallas lacks mega church facilities, I wonder why any city actually needs even 1 megachurch facility? If someone wants to make the case that we need megachurch facilities in all of our downtowns and suburbs, in order to grow and reproduce genuine disciples of Christ, I would really like to hear the best argument that can be brought forward. But any argument in favor of megachurches should also take into consideration the reality that cities like Dallas are already rife with church buildings and other global cities lack both churches and workers. I know a minister who just returned from visiting a city of 6 million in Asia and he saw one church building. He returned with an overwhelming conviction and awareness that we have an obligation, with all our resources and trained theologians, to invest some of our excess money and trained workers where the need is so very great and the opportunity even greater.

  • debbie mosley

    If you all will go to the website and and, listen to pastor jeffress’ comments on why this is being done now maybe you can understand his point or not. The construction costs are downmaking this an opportune time.the facilities were old and complicated to navigate.

  • MatthewS

    I am also one who has an immediate and visceral reaction to these amounts of money.

    I am reminded, however, of the woman who “wasted” a very expensive bottle of perfume in worship. There was no practical benefit. Judas, keeper of the moneybags, was the most chagrined. It is not always wrong to “waste” resources on worship that could have been given to the poor. That is NOT an easy sentence for me to write and I think many times we err on the side of merely paying lip service to the poor, and this is wrong. But still, there are appropriate times to “waste” money on worship.

    Also, there is a very real phenomenon that older buildings begin to cost more to keep up and repair than it would cost to build a new one. For example, I recently learned that school buildings that are 50 years old often need some costly maintenance but school buildings that 80 years old are often more cost-effective to tear down and rebuild.

    I don’t have any particular point, just putting these items on the table.

  • Derek

    You’ve brought good points to the table, MatthewS. The tricky thing for any church that embarks on a building campaign is to truly discern whether it is an act of worship or pride/vanity. I don’t presume to know which is true of FBD, but even if the true intent is that of worship, there is no guarantee that this will remain the case as more and more of the church’s energy and money is devoted towards a huge building plan of this nature.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Francis Chan’s conviction that when we place so much emphasis on building sleeker, bigger, more comfortable churches, it tends to foster a mentality of bringing people INTO the four walls of a church rather than sending Christians OUTSIDE the four walls. He makes a compelling case that the overwhelming concern and orientation of the church in Acts was that of an outward thrust. He further says that when we get upside down on this, it has a profound impact on our ability to carry out the Great Commission. It’s hard to disagree with him.

  • FBC Alum

    I grew up at FBCD and was a member there until about 18 months ago. I wasn’t there when the building plans were unveiled but I, too, was shocked at the price tag. True, the campus needs a facelift. The buildings that were torn down were in need of repair, and I’m told that the costs to renovate and remediate were extraordinarily high. Not to mention the difficulty navigating the campus. So, I applaud the congregation for seeking to make the campus more open and welcoming, not to mention less expensive to maintain because the new buildings will be more energy efficient.

    I have been, however, exceedingly disappointed in the current pastor and his attempts to bring attention to himself and the church. He seems bent on alienating everyone in DFW except his own church members (recall his “Why Gay is Not Ok” sermon and telling the congregation not to vote for Mitt Romney in 2008 because he is a Mormon, not to mention his many appearance on FoxNews and MSNBC – does this guy have an agent??). I don’t disagree with his theology, but my family and I got sick and tired of Dr. Jeffress’ egomaniacal attitude. I cannot tell you how many Christian and non-Christian friends and co-workers of mine have expressed a strong dislike of anything related to FBCD because of Jeffress and how he is perceived by the community. FBCD will continue to be viewed negatively as long as their pastor continues to go out of his way to annoy and antagonize people with whom he disagrees. It’s a shame, too, because FBCD is a strong church with a strong commitment to ministry, both home and abroad. Unfortunately, the pastor has made himself a lightning rod for criticism and ridicule (see the Dallas Observer articles) – and not because of his theology or preaching, but because of HIMSELF.

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